Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Caricatures – One Feature of Soviet Times Putin Doesn’t Want to Bring Back

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 25 – Caricatures and even entire publications devoted to caricatures first appeared in Soviet Russia in Lenin’s time and continued to appear right up to the end of the USSR, attacking approved targets for humor including under Gorbachev the supreme leader of the country and often providing comic relief for the population.

            But most of the caricature magazines like Krokodil disappeared in the early 1990s and have not been replaced. Fewer official publications carry such drawings; and the Internet has done little to keep this art form alive. More important, there are clear signs that Putin and his system don’t want to see any revival of caricatures, Yury Kondratyuk says.

            Writing in the current issue of Sovershenno Sekretno, the journalist says that caricatures are a dying art form. Most of those still producing caricatures are older men who got their start in Soviet times. There are few young people and almost no women in the field (

            The primary reason for the demise of caricatures in Russia, Kondratyuk says, is the change in the nature of censorship from Soviet times. Now, censors oversaw all media output and so they decided what could and could not appear, removing the burden from editors of making such choices.

            But now, censorship is imposed by closing down publications and other media outlets that violate typically unspoken rules. That means self-censorship is required. Editors and owners can’t afford to have a caricature appear that someone higher up may not like, and not knowing where the precise limits are, such people are inclined to be super cautious.

            Such fears, of course, exist with regard to articles; but they are even greater regarding caricatures because a caricature to be effective will almost always offend someone. Indeed, that is almost the definition of the nature of the genre. And so editors and even more owners are especially cautious.

            As a result, there are fewer and fewer outlets for caricatures; and ever more evidence that Putin doesn’t want to bring back this staple of Soviet life. The result? A grayer life with fewer smiles and less laughter even compared to some of the most difficult times of Soviet history, the Sovershenno Sekretno journalist says. 


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